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09-20-2010, 07:59 PM #1
Greubel Forsey’s Purity of Purpose
Greubel Forsey’s Purity of Purpose: Part One of Three
From the moment I first laid eyes on a photo of the Greubel Forsey Double Tourbillon 30 Degree Vision, it was love at first sight. Not a fleeting, superficial love, but rather, a profound, intense and enduring love. As I researched the men behind the watch, their guiding principles and approach to horology, and the technical sophistication of their movements, my admiration and reverence intensified. A couple of years later, I saw one in the metal, and the depth of my already fervent veneration grew exponentially. No other watch before, nor since, has had such a powerful affect on me. This piece has represented my ultimate grail for several years without interruption or challenge. That being said, acquiring this grail of grails was slightly more involved than a quick trip to the local mall and, therefore, notwithstanding my deep rooted passion and esteem, the watch remained an elusive dream . . . until recently.
"We chose to concentrate initially on tourbillons as we felt that as there had been relatively little experimentation and innovation in that field in relation to wristwatches, we had a good chance of discovering and contributing something new."
~ Steven Forsey
With the recent deluge of tourbillons in the marketplace, the fundamental purpose and goal of the tourbillon has been diluted and lost in the fray. The tourbillon was once a useful and pragmatic feature that evolved out of necessity and was designed to enhance the performance of a watch. Yet, in recent times, many companies have employed the tourbillon (frequently outsourced) primarily, if not exclusively, for aesthetic purposes, hoping to draw in potential buyers with its mesmerizing constant circular motion.
I must concede that I, like many, find the appearance of a well executed tourbillon visually alluring. That being said, what distinguishes Greubel Forsey from many modern day watch companies is that they employ the tourbillon for its performance advantages (which they have proven) and, equally important, they have improved upon existing tourbillon technology. Greubel Forsey saw the tourbillon as an underdeveloped complication, for which there was much room for advancement, with the ultimate goal being improved time keeping. During their six years in business, Greubel Forsey has advanced the tourbillon to new levels of sophistication and performance and, in the process, produced several extraordinary time pieces.
This begs an important question: Do modern day mechanical watches really need improved performance or, in general, are they sufficiently accurate without the aid of a well executed and properly employed tourbillon. In my humble opinion, it is the later. In my experience, present day mechanical watches are more than sufficiently accurate without incorporating a tourbillon.
So why then have I exalted Greubel Forsey's emphasis on the performance advantages of tourbillons if I think these performance advantages are largely unnecessary? For me, it’s a matter of intention and the purity of their approach. While their performance improvements may not be necessary, the fact that Greubel Forsey is guided by a genuine desire to advance movement technology and accuracy evidences a pure and honorable intention that has become something of a rarity in modern horology. Many watch manufacturers have focused their efforts primarily on aesthetic design, with a never ending barrage of novel ways to display time. For these companies, tourbillons are nothing more than a design element. Louis Breguet would turn over in his grave if he learned what had happened to his beloved tourbillon. Conversely, Greubel Forsey endeavored to improve the operation and affect of the tourbillon. Breguet would stand up and applaud if he learned of Greubel Forsey's efforts. That, in a nutshell, is why I exalt Greubel Forsey, even though their advancements are arguably superfluous. They have honored the intent of the complication and pursued their movements with a purity of purpose that is praiseworthy!
Does this mean I am unaffected by the aesthetic qualities of a tourbillon? Absolutely not! I love the mesmerizing appearance of a well executed tourbillon, even if only a design element. That being said, I appreciate a tourbillon considerably more if employed with a purity of purpose that Breguet would approve of. Lets call it the Breguet Litmus Test ("BLT"). In my opinion, Greubel Forsey epitomizes the BLT.
Greubel Forsey is a hybrid of watch makers and inventors. In order to create their new inventions and ground breaking movements, they have developed a unique and proprietary program known as Experimental Watch Technology ("EWT"). Greubel Forsey uses their state of the art EWT laboratory to continually experiment, test and validate their ingenuous advancements to every facet of watch technology. Every new Greubel Forsey movement goes through several years of testing and refinement before it is released for public consumption.
Greubel Forsey's enduring focus on technical advancement is matched only by its unwavering commitment to exquisite hand finishing. In this regard, they are something of a dichotomy. On the one hand, their EWT platform is a testament to the modern world of watch making, employing, among other things, state of the art computer design. On the other hand, Greubel Forsey has shunned modern machine finishing, and has instead retained many of the “old world” hand finishing techniques that some might deem obsolete.
At first glance, the gold frosting (common for English and French watches made during the 18th and 19th centuries) might appear rather banal in comparison to certain highly decorated movements. However, the deceptively simple gold frosting is, in reality, far more complicated than the more intricate looking Cotes de Geneve. Gold frosting requires two separate finishes; once before the gold frosting is applied and again afterwards. Essentially every component of a Greubel Forsey watch is finished by hand. A single tourbillon bridge requires twelve hours of hand finishing.
Part Two follows . . .
09-20-2010, 08:01 PM #2
Greubel Forsey's Purity of Purpose: Part Two
Part Two of Three . . .
A few weeks ago, I was presented with the opportunity to acquire my grail of grails: a Greubel Forsey Double Tourbillon 30 Degree Vision in WG with a grey dial. I pulled the trigger. Thank you Steven!!!
Words are wholly inadequate to describe the depth of my awe. Therefore, I will share a few photos. Notwithstanding the superlative movement, it seems appropriate to start with the dial:
The case is 43.5mm wide and 15.76 thick. The dial, hands and markers are all made out of solid gold, and are exquisitely finished:
The blue accents contrast beautifully with the dark grey dial, so as to give the watch its unique character and substance. The two subdials – power reserve and second hand – give the dial wonderful symmetry and balance.
72 hour power reserve:
Of course, the heart of the dial, and the watch as a whole, is the multi-axis tourbillon.
The larger, outer tourbillon (15 mm in diameter) completes a revolution every four minutes. The four handed wheel at the center of the tourbillon carriage rotates in synch with the outer tourbillon and reflects the progress of the four minute tourbillon by the numbers at the edge of the dial adjacent to the tourbillon carriage (one of the four hands has an arrow at the tip).
The smaller, interior tourbillon completes a revolution every 60 seconds. The interior tourbillon turns on a 30 degree axis as compared to the outer tourbillon. The two different axes of the tourbillons provide greater compensation for differences in rate resulting from the earth’s gravity, as compared to a single axis tourbillon. Greubel Forsey selected a 30 degree incline for the second tourbillon in order to improve performance without creating an excessively deep movement and case.
The inner carriage contains the escapement, free sprung balance system with flat hairspring and Phillips terminal curve. The two tourbillon carriages are comprised of 128 different parts and weigh a mere 1.17 grams.
"By means of this invention, I have succeeded in cancelling through compensation the anomalies caused by the different positions of the centres of gravity of the regulator movements, to distribute frictions on all parts of the circumference of this regulator's pivots and of the holes in which these pivots move. This is to allow the oiling of the friction surfaces to always be even, in spite of oil coagulation, and finally to cancel many other causes of error influencing movement accuracy. This could only be attained until now by constant trial and error and often even without any certainty of success."
~ Louis Breguet (in his patent application for the tourbillon)
According to Breguet and his progeny, gravity negatively impacts the balance wheel, hairspring, and pallet fork, so as to meaningfully diminish the accuracy of a watch. A tourbillon attempts to average/cancel out the effects of gravity by putting the escapement through a myriad of gravitational variations. The traditional single axis tourbillon accomplishes this using a single plane. Greubel Forsey's multi-axis tourbillon introduces a second plane of rotation, thus dramatically increasing the variation in the gravitational position of the escapement and thereby permitting even greater averaging/cancellation of gravitational effects.
So, does it work? "The proof of the pudding is in the eating." Greubel Forsey does not rest on theoretically hypothesis. Rather, they aggressively test their inventions and document empirical proof of the actual improvements they have achieved. For example, Greubel Forsey tested the variation of their double tourbillon movement against a competing single axis tourbillon and a non-tourbillon using the identical escapement. The variation was tested in six different positions. The chart below depicts the test results:
The red line on the right is for the non-tourbillon. The blue center line is the single axis tourbillon. The green line on the left is the Greubel Forsey Double Tourbillon. The straighter the line, the less the variation and greater the accuracy. The non-toubillon had a variation of approximately ten seconds over 24 hours for the six tested positions. The single axis tourbillon had a variation of approximately 7 seconds for the six tested positions. The Greubel Forsey Double Tourbillon had a mere 3 second variation.
Each Greubel Forsey watch is given a number . . . mine is No. 102. This number has no relationship to the number of Double Tourbillons manufactured. Rather, Greubel Forsey numbers its watches sequentially, regardless of models, so my No. 102 means that it is the 102nd watch manufactured by Greubel Forsey since the company’s inception, including all their models.
Part Three follows . . .
09-20-2010, 08:02 PM #3
Greubel Forsey's Purity of Purpose: Part Three
Part Three of Three:
The Greubel Forsey Double Tourbillon is a watch that I would gladly wear upside down if I could. The movement is both an engineering and artistic work of art!
The Double Tourbillon derives its power from two in-line barrels to ensure stable power delivery, one of which employs a slipping spring to prevent the adverse consequences of excess tension during winding.
The spectacular finishing of the tourbillon carriages are viewable from both the front and the back:
Each surface has its own unique finish. The barrels are snail finished -- the main plate has circular graining -- the pinions are mirror polished -- all edges are hand beveled -- screws are flame blued with beveled and polished heads -- and ample use of gold frosting/gilding (similar to Daniels and Smith).
Like everything else, the case is hand finished
The "Spiral of Infinity" on the outside of the case is hand engraved with a hand punched background.
I have tried my best to describe my new watch, but my words and photographs are wholly inadequate for one fundamental reason: The Greubel Forsey Double Tourbillon 30 Degree Vision must be seen in motion in order to be truly understood and appreciated. Therefore, if anyone is still reading at this point, I highly suggest that you watch the following incredible video:
YouTube - Greubel Forsey Double Tourbillon 30° .
This is a fantastic interview of Greubel and Forsey:
YouTube - Greubel Forsey and Their Inventions .
Like all my watches, I am wearing my new Greubel Forsey every week, and loving every minute with it. No safe queens here!
Thank you for sharing my exuberance over my new Greubel Forsey Double Tourbillon.
09-20-2010, 08:05 PM #4
Excellent review! Congrats on the new purchase, wear it in good health! It looks amazing.......Rather fail with honor than succeed by fraud.-Sophocles
09-20-2010, 08:11 PM #5
Nice write up Craig. Truly an amazing watch.
09-20-2010, 08:49 PM #6Senior Member
- Join Date
- Sep 2009
- Columbus, OH
Amazing Craig, great review. Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to share in the excitement with you. G&F make some of the best (if not all of the best) pieces around. Again thank you!
09-20-2010, 08:57 PM #7
Spectacular watch, and wonderful review. I really enjoyed that, thanks.“I’m sorry, but having an Aston Martin DB9 on the drive and not driving it is a bit like having Keira Knightley in your bed and sleeping on the couch. If you’ve got even half a scrotum it’s not going to happen.” - Jeremy Clarkson
Aston Martin DB9
09-20-2010, 09:16 PM #8
Beautiful watch, and equally eloquent writing. I'm continually impressed with the talent on the 4.
Craig, thank you for sharing. I'm not a timepiece aficionado (yet) but I greatly appreciate attention to design and pushing the limits of innovation, two things this piece excels at.
09-20-2010, 09:19 PM #9
Wow, Craig that is unreal.. Congratulations! Thanks for the great write up and sharing that amazing piece.Events throughout ones life don't build character, they reveal it.
09-20-2010, 09:21 PM #10